Daimler Portland adds union jobs

Daimler Trucks North America is hiring again at its Portland truck plant, after laying off 1,000 union members there in 2007 and 2009.

The company announced Oct. 20 that its Portland plant will hire 350 shop workers by the end of 2012, as well as 20 engineering and support workers. Its plant, located in the Swan Island Industrial Park, produces heavy-duty Western Star brand trucks for use in mining, logging, oil field and construction, plus on-highway trucks and specialized vehicles. It currently employs around 700 shop workers and 50 engineers, managers and support staff, plus nearly 2,000 white-collar workers at Daimler’s nearby headquarters.

Daimler began taking online applications Oct. 21 at dtna.jobs. The largest group of new hires — assemblers — start at $12 an hour and rise to $23.25 over four-and-a-half years.

Daimler is filling 190 assembler positions and an unspecified number of maintenance mechanic positions; these will be members of Machinists Lodge 1005. Daimler is also hiring 38 material handlers, who will be members of Teamsters Local 305. [For painter and janitor positions, represented by Painters Local 1094 and Service Employees Local 49, the company has been recalling laid-off workers.] All the jobs come with health and retirement benefits.

This first round of hiring is expected to be completed by mid-December. Once new hires are trained, the company will start a second shift at the plant, likely in January. A second wave of hiring is planned for next summer.

“This decision [to hire] is a credit to the quality of the work our members do,” said Machinists District Lodge W24 business representative Joe Kear.

It’s also quite a comeback for a plant that Daimler, less than three years ago, said it was planning to close. Daimler learned it would incur substantial “legacy” costs to its union workers if it closed, and subsequently decided to keep the plant open.

This year, the company reports, Western Star orders have risen steadily, and forecasts are for continued growth in 2012. Daimler first recalled laid-off workers, then announced in June that it would add 155 jobs starting September. That timetable may have been delayed, Kear said, while a consultant firm worked to find production efficiencies using “lean manufacturing” methods. Now, it appears Daimler is racing to catch up with orders: Since early October, Daimler has instituted mandatory overtime: nine hour days, and one Saturday a month.

The addition of jobs in Portland is part of a global expansion recently announced by the German-based company. Daimler’s truck manufacturing plant in Mount Holly, North Carolina, will take on a second shift as it adds 535 unionized (United Auto Workers) manufacturing jobs and 37 administrative jobs. A plant in Saltillo, Mexico, will add a third shift as it hires 479 nonunion manufacturing workers and 32 staff workers, and a truck parts plant in Gastonia, North Carolina, will add 124 workers who will be represented by UAW.

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